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New Play Therapy study in Ethiopia
18 May 2012A team led by the Anna Freud Centre’s Chief Executive, Professor Peter Fonagy is investigating the effect of a new play therapy on the development of severely malnourished children in Southern Ethiopia.
A team led by the Anna Freud Centre’s Chief Executive, Professor Peter Fonagy is investigating the effect of a new play therapy on the development of severely malnourished children in Southern Ethiopia. The novel intervention, filial play therapy, is cheap, practical and readily accessible. It involves locally trained youths showing mothers simple techniques of engaging their young children in playful interaction. Through play, the bond between mother and infant, weakened by the experience of starvation and near death is reformed and the natural reciprocity of attachment needs and caregiving is re-established. It is expected that the closer relationship between mothers and their children established by filial play therapy, will facilitate feeding which will reduce the duration of malnourishment, toxic to the normal development of the brain.
The study is now well underway and forty sites have been enrolled. More than 300 children are already taking part in the trial, and recruitment will continue until the target of 400 is met. At twenty of the sites, local health extension workers and local youths have been trained to teach mothers simple play therapy techniques. At the other twenty sites, the local health extension workers have been delivering the comparator, nutritional education, which focuses on weight gain without the relational component.
In order to compare the effects of the two interventions researchers have been taking physical measurements, such as height and weight, as well as carrying out psychological assessments. In a subsample, mothers and infants are being filmed to analyse the impact of the intervention on mother-infant interactions. The study is being funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Foundation.
The Regional Government of Ethiopia is extremely involved in the follow up and monitoring of the intervention and is highly committed to find sustainable solutions to improve the lives of children affected by food shortages.